A reluctant Marquis convinces the rebellious daughter of a duke to help him investigate the suspicious deaths of his father and brothers. Tristan Townsend, younger son of the Marquis of Lockwood, was a free spirited ship’s captain. After a short term in His Majesty’s navy, he creates a thriving shipping business. He happily wanders the British Empire until one day word reaches him that his father and brothers are dead. His only remaining blood relation is his younger half-sister, Emmaline. Lady Lucinda Townsend, Emmaline’s mother and Tristan’s stepmother, resents the new Marquis. Neither she nor her daughter may inherit as long as a male direct descendent is alive. When Tristan discovers that his stepmother purchased huge insurance policies on his father and his elder brothers a short time before their ‘accidents’, he becomes suspicious. He develops a plan to expose his black widow stepmother. All he needs is a willing lady to pretend to be his fiancé. Simone Turnbridge knows that she is different from the other debutantes. Not only because she was born on the wrong side of the blanket (like her two half sisters) but because she has always been restless.Neither as responsible as her elder sister Caroline nor as sensitive as her younger sister Fiona; middle child Simone has always been a mischievous rebel just because. She behaves more like a well-bred gentleman than a proper lady. She fences like a master swordsman, rides like a cavalry officer and fires a pistol like an expert sharpshooter. When she makes her society debut, Simone becomes an instant sensation.
The society matrons disapprove of her brash behavior. Most of the young gentlemen are intimated by her and her fellow debutantes resent her outspoken manner. Her exasperated guardians, (her sister Caroline and her brother-in-law, the Duke of Ryland) threaten to send her to their country estate if she causes any more trouble. Simone’s only friend among the debutantes is shy Emmaline Townsend. While she tries to convince her new friend not to be such a wallflower, smoke fills the crowded ballroom. With quick thinking and quicker actions, Simone saves herself and her friend from a fiery death. The new Marquis invites her to Lockwood so that he can thank her for rescuing his sister. Fascinated bythe intrepidbeauty, Tristan believes he may have found an ally capable of helping him avenge his father and brothers. After telling Simone of his suspicions, Tristan suggests the two of them unmask his stepmother by pretending to become engaged. When her guardians outlined proper ladylike behavior, they had not specifically forbidden her to pose as a target for a suspected murderess. Simone has always found it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission.